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Angelique Westerhof


August 02 2011
Fashion

Interview

Director of the Dutch Fashion Foundation


How did you come up with the idea of the Dutch Fashion Foundation?
There was a gap between Dutch fashion and the international press, retail, PR and all of these things. We have a strong background in architecture and art; we have a history of a long line of queens which instilled a presence of beauty; but fashion didn’t really exist. In the 80s, things started to pick up but Dutch designers went abroad and manufactured and sold in other countries. They forgot about their own industry. That's the reason why we founded the Dutch Fashion Foundation.

Who did you speak to and how did you get started?
I got together with the founder of the Arnhem Mode Biennale.
We set up a school in order to start from education. You can see that we need to start with education to bring the economics and the fashion DNA into the country. Then we blended it into our own language. If you want to go for quality, individuality, you need to give people the time to develop it. And right now I think that we are in a very good spot.

Which kind of partner did you find in order to succeed in your mission?
In the beginning, we worked a lot with “cultural partners” and private partners, like embassies. And right now we work with Affaire Economique. We also work with Mercedes-Benz. We have an annual award ceremony, which is like the Oscars of Dutch fashion. There is an international jury.

What do you ask of the labels to join the Dutch Fashion Foundation? Do they have to apply?
We work on several projects on several levels. The floor acts really as incubators, so that brands can be younger, for example, Erik Frenken, who used to design for Avelon, really got the time to develop his brand. We focus on contemporary Dutch talent, who want to create their own brand.

Is there a committee who decides who is accepted into the Foundation?
We are a small team of 7 people, so they have to be hands-on themselves. There is the Academy of Dutch Fashion Design that brings together all the people in the Netherlands who are boosting Dutch fashion for the last 15-20 years. By ranking, they form the “pre-nominations”. We then ask the designers if they would like to be nominated, if they would like me to propose them to the international jury. It will take them a lot of time to prepare for that, which is why we ask. Then the international jury decides and that is really very liberating because they travel the entire world, they have such a lot of knowledge and they can really tell if you have potential. It liberates people.

Do you support the designers with links overseas?
From the very beginning, our aim was to put Dutch fashion out there as a cultural statement, so we have established foreign campaigns. In Paris we worked with the Cartier Foundation, we did a special called “Fashion and beyond” and every designer – there were 30 designers – reflected fashion in a different way, so fashion and music, fashion and video, fashion and dance. It was in 2006 and it was very beautiful. We also had a big overview exhibition with the Musée Galeria, “la mode hollandaise et française”. It was great to see a contemporary reflection – we believe in mirroring. It’s about the dialogue that you are creating with the designers that you recognise. That’s why we chose to work with Tranoï. They curate in the same way as we do. Yes it’s always subjective, but at the same time if it’s about fashion professionalism which is very objective.

Can I ask you about money? Can you tell me how much you have for the designers?
For example, for one brand, over 3 years, 2 countries, 2 markets – 1 million Euros

What do you take responsibility for?
We work on 4 levels with the designers. So, we work firstly on communication – look-books, websites. We communicate their individuality. We curate together with Tranoi, for example. Second is sales. Thirdly, matchmaking with the right PR company, the right agent – that’s very tailor made . Fourth is sourcing: in the 80s we hardly had the right production companies, it’s important to liaise with the right people and to extend to other partners in the Netherlands that know more about other countries. Dutch fashion is more about a mentality than if you can say “oh, that looks so Dutch”. It’s too diverse. We try to work on individuality that makes you different. You know, the Netherlands is a very good fashion climate – tax-wise. Big companies like Prada are bringing their financial headquarters to Amsterdam.

And when designers come to Paris, do they get financial support from you?
The designers get a maximum of 50% (not towards travel or accommodation). Affaire Economique wants to help people in the midst of their development and give them the push that they need. That’s the time where brands are most fragile and so our support is really helpful. And we will support them for a minimum of three seasons and a maximum of six seasons – and anything in between, depending on the development of the brand.

In Paris, you’ve chosen to show with Tranoï – which fairs do you use in Italy?
We also work with Atmosphere in Paris. In Italy, we work with White, Cloud 9, Pitti and Tranoï again.
How did you get the idea of the Dutch Fashion Foundation?
There was a gap between Dutch fashion and the international press, retail, PR and all of these things. We have a strong background in architecture and art; we have a history of a long line of queens which instilled a presence of beauty; but fashion didn’t really exist. In the 80s, things started to pick up but Dutch designers went abroad and manufactured and sold in other countries. They forgot about their own industry. That's the reason why we founded the Dutch Fashion Foundation.

Who did you speak to and how did you get started?
I got together with the founder of the Arnhem Mode Biennale.
We set up a school in order to start from education. You can see that we need to start with education to bring the economics and the fashion DNA into the country. Then we blended it into our own language. And if you work with ten designers a year... If you want to go for quality, individuality, you need to give people the time to develop it. And right now I think that we are in a very good spot.

Which kind of partner did you find in order to succeed in your mission?
In the beginning, we worked a lot with “cultural partners” and private partners, like embassies. And right now we work with economical affairs. We also work with Mercedes-Benz. We have an annual award ceremony, which is like the Oscars of Dutch fashion. There is an international jury.

What do you ask of the labels to join the Dutch Fashion Foundation? Do they have to apply?
We work on several projects on several levels. The floor acts really as incubators, so that brands can be younger, for example, Erik Frenken, who used to design for Avelon, really got the time to develop his brand. We focus on contemporary Dutch talent, who want to create their own brand.

Is there a committee who decides who is accepted into the Foundation?
We are a small team of 7 people, so they have to be hands-on themselves. There is the Academy of Dutch Fashion Design that brings together all the people in the Netherlands who are boosting Dutch fashion for the last 15-20 years. By ranking, they form the “pre-nominations”. We then ask the designers if they would like to be nominated, if they would like me to propose them to the international jury. It will take them a lot of time to prepare for that, which is why we ask. Then the international jury decides and that is really very liberating because they travel the entire world, they have such a lot of knowledge and they can really tell if you have potential. It liberates people.

Do you support the designers with links overseas?
From the very beginning, our aim was to put Dutch fashion out there as a cultural statement, so we have established foreign campaigns. In Paris we worked with the Cartier Foundation, we did a special called “Fashion and beyond” and every designer – there were 30 designers – reflected fashion in a different way, so fashion and music, fashion and video, fashion and dance. It was in 2006 and it was very beautiful. We also had a big overview exhibition with the Musée Galeria, “la mode hollandaise et française”. It was great to see a contemporary reflection – we believe in mirroring. It’s about the dialogue that you are creating with the designers that you recognise. That’s why we chose to work with Tranoï. They curate in the same way as we do. Yes it’s always subjective, but at the same time if it’s about fashion professionalism which is very objective.

Can I ask you about money? Can you tell me how much you have for the designers?
For example, for one brand, over 3 years, 2 countries, 2 markets – 1 million Euros

What do you take responsibility for?
We work on 4 levels with the designers. So, we work firstly on communication – look-books, websites. We communicate their individuality. We curate together with Tranoi, for example. Second is sales. Thirdly, matchmaking with the right PR company, the right agent – that’s very tailor made . Fourth is sourcing: in the 80s we hardly had the right production companies, it’s important to liaise with the right people and to extend to other partners in the Netherlands that know more about other countries. Dutch fashion is more about a mentality than if you can say “oh, that looks so Dutch”. It’s too diverse. We try to work on individuality that makes you different. You know, the Netherlands is a very good fashion climate – tax-wise. Big companies like Prada are bringing their financial headquarters to Amsterdam.

And when designers come to Paris, do they get financial support from you?
The designers get a maximum of 50% (not towards travel or accommodation). Affaire Economique wants to help people in the midst of their development and give them the push that they need. That’s the time where brands are most fragile and so our support is really helpful. And we will support them for a minimum of three seasons and a maximum of six seasons – and anything in between, depending on the development of the brand.

In Paris, you’ve chosen to show with Tranoï – which fairs do you use in Italy?
We also work with Atmosphere in Paris. In Italy, we work with White, Cloud 9, Pitti.

Discover the labels supported by the Dutch Fashion Foundation

Interview conducted by Florence Julienne